Gov. Greg Abbott has proposed placing a cap on property taxes, a move local officials in Austin oppose.
Abbott’s proposal calls for a 2.5 percent cap to property tax revenue increases for all local taxing entities, including school districts. A government entity could only increase taxes beyond that threshold for public safety and critical infrastructure if it is approved by a supermajority in a general election and by a supermajority of its governing body, the Statesman reports.
Last year, Senate and House Republicans promoted differing proposals to curb property tax increases, but couldn’t agree on a percentage cap, leaving the current cap of 8 percent in place. Currently, voters can petition to force a rollback rate election for increases above 8 percent, but the referendums aren’t automatic.
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, a Republican, warned that local officials will have to contend with the appeal of restricting property tax increases, the Austin Statesman reports, arguing that property tax increases are needed to fix ailing schools.
Daugherty spoke to local elected officials and Austin-area Democratic lawmakers in a meeting ahead of the state Legislature convening next year to figure out how to increase public school funding. They argue Abbott’s proposal “would hobble the ability of Austin and other fast-growing cities to provide necessary services.”
“It sells, and that is why we have a hard job getting there,” Daugherty said.
The Statesman reports that the issue of fixing schools “appears to have become intertwined” with property tax relief. Reining in property taxes was part of the focus of a state commission created to fix the school finance system.
Finance officials from the city of Austin, Travis County and the Austin school district warn doom and gloom for schools if Abbott’s tax plan becomes law, and the state’s decades-old school finance system isn’t fixed.
More than 40 percent of Austin-area property taxes are redistributed to other school districts in low-income property poor neighborhoods.
Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said, “If the Legislature doesn’t fix the school finance system, Austin will have to close schools. I think we need to put that on billboards.”